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Nearly Half of Eye Injuries Occur at Home

Wearing Eyewear Could Prevent Most Eye Injuries, Groups Say
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 2, 2008 -- Fireworks-related eye injuries are a big reason why the Fourth of July holds the distinction of being America's most dangerous holiday. But eye injuries in the home occur every day of the year, and most can be avoided, experts say.

A new study shows that nearly half of the 2.5 million eye injuries that occur annually in the U.S. happen in and around the home, and 90% of these injuries could be prevented if more people used protective eyewear.

In an effort to prevent and raise awareness about home-related eye injuries, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Society of Ocular Trauma (ASOT) on Wednesday called on all Americans to have at least one pair of protective eyewear in the home and to use the eyewear often.

"As families gather to celebrate the Fourth they are probably aware of the risk to their eyes from fireworks and from the sports they may engage in," San Francisco ophthalmologist and AAO spokesman Andrew Iwach, MD, tells WebMD. "But only a small percentage of eye injuries occur on the Fourth of July."

Thousands of people suffer eye injuries in and around the home each year while performing everyday tasks like mowing the lawn and frying bacon.

"Slipping on a pair of safety glasses is quick and easy," ASOT President Ferenc Kuhn, MD, PhD, says in a news statement. "Unfortunately, compared to other commonsense safety steps such as wearing seatbelts, using protective eyewear does not happen frequently enough."

Hurt on the Fourth of July

Although eye injuries occur every day, the Fourth of July presents a special risk for people who include illegal and even legal fireworks in their celebrations.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that after injury to the hands, eye injury is the most common reason for fireworks-related hospital ER visits.

Nearly 10,000 Americans were treated in emergency rooms last year for fireworks injuries, and 64% of these injuries occurred on or around July 4, according to the CPSC.

Burns were the most common reason for ER visits, with 1,400 burn injuries to the eyes reported.

Experts warn that even the most benign fireworks pose a risk, especially to young children.

Many injuries to children are caused by sparklers, which burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees -- hot enough to melt some metals.

Half of all eye injuries from fireworks occur in children, and as many as one in four of these injuries result in permanent vision loss.

"No one should go from a backyard celebration to the emergency room with firework-related injuries," CPSC acting chairman Nancy Nord says in a news statement. "Using only legal fireworks and using them correctly is an important step toward celebrating safely."

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